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Behav Processes. 2006 Jul;73(1):107-13. Epub 2006 Apr 22.

Face processing limitation to own species in primates: a comparative study in brown capuchins, Tonkean macaques and humans.

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Cepe, UPR 9010, CNRS, 7 rue de l'Universite, 67000 Strasbourg, France.


Most primates live in social groups which survival and stability depend on individuals' abilities to create strong social relationships with other group members. The existence of those groups requires to identify individuals and to assign to each of them a social status. Individual recognition can be achieved through vocalizations but also through faces. In humans, an efficient system for the processing of own species faces exists. This specialization is achieved through experience with faces of conspecifics during development and leads to the loss of ability to process faces from other primate species. We hypothesize that a similar mechanism exists in social primates. We investigated face processing in one Old World species (genus Macaca) and in one New World species (genus Cebus). Our results show the same advantage for own species face recognition for all tested subjects. This work suggests in all species tested the existence of a common trait inherited from the primate ancestor: an efficient system to identify individual faces of own species only.

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